Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Lymantria monacha
(nun moth)



Lymantria monacha (nun moth)


  • Last modified
  • 10 December 2020
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Pest
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Lymantria monacha
  • Preferred Common Name
  • nun moth
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Metazoa
  •     Phylum: Arthropoda
  •       Subphylum: Uniramia
  •         Class: Insecta
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • L. monacha is considered to be the number one forest pest in Poland because of the unprecedented economic losses it causes in spite of intensive chemical protective treatments on an area of 6.3 million ha of pine, spruce and other conifer...

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L. monacha male from Honshu, Japan.
CaptionL. monacha male from Honshu, Japan.
CopyrightPaul W. Schaefer
L. monacha male from Honshu, Japan.
MaleL. monacha male from Honshu, Japan.Paul W. Schaefer
Male: smaller, paler moth with strongly pectinate antennae; female: larger, darker moth with filamentous antennae.
CaptionMale: smaller, paler moth with strongly pectinate antennae; female: larger, darker moth with filamentous antennae.
CopyrightMelody A. Keena
Male: smaller, paler moth with strongly pectinate antennae; female: larger, darker moth with filamentous antennae.
AdultsMale: smaller, paler moth with strongly pectinate antennae; female: larger, darker moth with filamentous antennae.Melody A. Keena
Variation in adult coloration: males (a) and (b) females. Note strongly pectinate male antennnae.
TitleSexual dimorphism
CaptionVariation in adult coloration: males (a) and (b) females. Note strongly pectinate male antennnae.
CopyrightMelody A. Keena
Variation in adult coloration: males (a) and (b) females. Note strongly pectinate male antennnae.
Sexual dimorphismVariation in adult coloration: males (a) and (b) females. Note strongly pectinate male antennnae.Melody A. Keena
Variation in adult coloration: females (top) males (bottom). Note strongly pectinate antennae of males.
TitleSexual dimorphism
CaptionVariation in adult coloration: females (top) males (bottom). Note strongly pectinate antennae of males.
CopyrightMelody A. Keena
Variation in adult coloration: females (top) males (bottom). Note strongly pectinate antennae of males.
Sexual dimorphismVariation in adult coloration: females (top) males (bottom). Note strongly pectinate antennae of males.Melody A. Keena
Female pupa.
CaptionFemale pupa.
CopyrightMelody A. Keena
Female pupa.
PupaFemale pupa.Melody A. Keena
Large larva from Honshu, Japan, feeding on Larix leptolepis.
CaptionLarge larva from Honshu, Japan, feeding on Larix leptolepis.
CopyrightPaul W. Schaefer
Large larva from Honshu, Japan, feeding on Larix leptolepis.
LarvaLarge larva from Honshu, Japan, feeding on Larix leptolepis.Paul W. Schaefer
Second-instar larva (a) and fifth-instar larva (b).
TitleLarval stages
CaptionSecond-instar larva (a) and fifth-instar larva (b).
CopyrightMelody A. Keena
Second-instar larva (a) and fifth-instar larva (b).
Larval stagesSecond-instar larva (a) and fifth-instar larva (b).Melody A. Keena
L. monacha eggs in bark crevice.
CaptionL. monacha eggs in bark crevice.
CopyrightMelody A. Keena
L. monacha eggs in bark crevice.
OvaL. monacha eggs in bark crevice.Melody A. Keena


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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Lymantria monacha (Linnaeus)

Preferred Common Name

  • nun moth

Other Scientific Names

  • Bombyx eremita Hübner, 1808
  • Bombyx nigra Freyer, 1833
  • Liparis monacha Linnaeus
  • Liparis monacha var. oethiops De Selys-Longchamps, 1857
  • Lymantria brunnea Stipan, 1933
  • Lymantria fasciata Hannemann, 1916
  • Lymantria kusnezovi Kulossow, 1928
  • Lymantria monacha chosenibia Bryk
  • Lymantria monacha eremita
  • Lymantria monacha flaviventer Kruilikovsky
  • Lymantria monacha gracilis Kruilikovsky
  • Lymantria monacha idae Bryk
  • Lymantria monacha lateralis Bryk
  • Lymantria monacha matuta Bryk
  • Lymantria monacha nigra
  • Lymantria transiens Lambillion, 1909
  • Noctua heteroclita Müller, 1764
  • Ocneria monacha Linnaeus
  • Phalaena Bombyx monacha Linnaeus, 1758
  • Phalaena monacha Linnaeus
  • Porthetria monacha Linnaeus
  • Psilura monacha Linnaeus
  • Psilura transiens Thierry Mieg, 1886

International Common Names

  • English: black arched tussock moth; black arches moth; tussock moth
  • Spanish: lagarta monacha; mariposa monacha; mariposa monja; monja
  • French: bombix moine; bombyx moine; moine; nonne
  • Russian: monashenka; shelkopryad monashenka

Local Common Names

  • Austria: nonne
  • Czech Republic: bekyne mniska
  • Denmark: nonnen
  • Finland: havununna
  • Germany: fichten spinner; nonne
  • Italy: monaca
  • Japan: nonne-maimai
  • Korea, DPR: eolrukmaemi-nabang
  • Netherlands: nonnetje; nonvlinder
  • Norway: barskognonne
  • Poland: brudnica mniszka
  • Sweden: barrskogsnunna

EPPO code

  • LYMAMO (Lymantria monacha)

Summary of Invasiveness

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L. monacha is considered to be the number one forest pest in Poland because of the unprecedented economic losses it causes in spite of intensive chemical protective treatments on an area of 6.3 million ha of pine, spruce and other conifers between 1978 and 1984 (Sliwa and Sierpinski, 1986). It is also considered to be a major pest in all the other areas where it goes through periodic outbreaks causing defoliation and resulting in the death of spruce and pine trees (Bejer, 1988). The frequency of outbreaks has increase from about every 30 to 40 years to intervals of 6 years. It poses an ever present threat of being accidentally transported via commerce and introduced into other world areas, where susceptible hosts are present. This is because the adults are readily attracted to artificial lights and have been observed in Russian Far East ports (Munson et al., 1995), and although the eggs are normally laid in bark crevices, they could also be deposited in crevices on containers, pallets, ships, etc. In a pest risk assessment for importation of larch from Siberia into the USA, L. monacha was one of the serious pests that were considered at risk of introduction if the bark was still on the logs, because of their use of the bark for oviposition and the fact that the eggs are not readily visible (Anonymous, 1991). Its establishment in areas with suitable hosts would be disastrous because of its polyphagous feeding habits, ability to colonize new habitats, and capacity to be spread rapidly by flying females.

L. monacha is listed as an invasive species of concern by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA); port inspectors monitor for it and as part of the Rapid Detection Pilot Project pheromone traps are being placed near ports of entry to detect any breeding populations. There were no L. monacha trapped in the one season of USA port monitoring reported on so far [at the time of writing in 2004]. Population levels are being monitored through collaboration between the USA and Russian agencies in the Russian Far East near ports (Munson et al., 1995).

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Metazoa
  •         Phylum: Arthropoda
  •             Subphylum: Uniramia
  •                 Class: Insecta
  •                     Order: Lepidoptera
  •                         Family: Erebidae
  •                             Subfamily: Lymantriinae
  •                                 Genus: Lymantria
  •                                     Species: Lymantria monacha

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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L. monacha is a member of the Lymantriidae family of Lepidoptera. Approximately 200 genera and 2500 species of Lymantriidae have been described from the world fauna. Since early attempts to revise the Lymantriidae group (Walker, 1855; Hampson, 1892; Dyar, 1897) no satisfactory classification has been proposed on a world basis. A few regional revisions have been written (e.g. Kozhanchikov, 1950; Inoue, 1957; Ferguson, 1978) and some synonymic lists (Kirby, 1892; Bryk, 1934; Chao, 1978; Nam and Kim, 1981; Zhao, 1982; Kim et al., 1982). This species has been placed in various genera before being assigned to the genus Lymantria and there are several species and subspecies that have been synonymized with L. monacha. A worldwide revision of the Lymantriidae is currently underway and the list of non-preferred scientific names included in this datasheet was provided by Ferguson, Pogue and Schaefer (P Schaefer, Agricultural Research Service, USDA, USA, personal communication, 2004).


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The eggs of L. monacha are spherical, approximately 1 mm in diameter, slightly depressed in the middle of the upper surface, and often flattened on the lower surface. The eggs are orange-brown (blue-green if reared on an artificial diet) at first, and later turn brown with an opalescent shine. The eggs are deposited in clumps that are glued together without a covering of hair. The female does not deposit all of her 70 to 300 eggs in one place and generally hides them in crevices in the bark of trees.


The hairy larvae of the Lymantriidae can always be distinguished from other families by the presence of some type of dorsal eversible glands, prominently located in the middle of the sixth and seventh abdominal segments. The larvae of Lymantria species have a full complement of low, rounded verrucae, without dense hair tufts, and usually without hair pencils. The dorsal verrucae bear needle-like setae and sometimes longer hairs.

Newly hatched larvae are approximately 4 mm long. At first, they appear tan-coloured but within several hours they turn black. They are very hairy and have 'air hairs', which may aid in dispersal. The 'air hairs' are simple setae with a bulb-like structure in the middle that looks like a water droplet under the light microscope. The 'air hairs' are only present on the first-instar larvae.

The second-instars appear black with a few lighter spots and have two white patches that almost encircle each dorsal verrucae on the third thoracic segment, but do not meet along the mid-dorsal line. There is also a light patch that fills the mid-dorsal space between the verrucae from the middle of the fourth to the middle of the sixth abdominal segments. The larvae have small, paired glands on the first and fifth abdominal segments and large, single orange eversible glands on the sixth and seventh, which are clearly visible.

From the third-instar on, the head of the larva is orange-brown with numerous brown and black freckles. The mid-dorsal stripe is a mottled brown to black. The dorsal verrucae of the larva are all bluish. The dorsal spot or patch patterns present in the second-instar persist through the later instars. The mature larvae appear tanish, greenish or dark-greyish, with extensive brown or black mottling and are 30 to 40 mm long. The colour of the larvae conceals them when they rest on the branch of a conifer.


The pupa has no cocoon, is reddish-brown, and shiny with light-coloured (occasionally red) clumps of hairs. It is 18 to 25 mm long. The sex of the pupa can be determined by the form of the bases of the antennal pads and by the characteristics of the future sex organs, located on the external ventral portion of the abdominal segments (female on the eighth segment and male on the ninth).


Lymantrid adults can usually be recognised by the position of the Sc vein relative to the Rs vein in the hindwing; the base of the M2 vein being much closer to M3 than to M1 in the hindwing; the absence or vestigial nature of the haustellum; the absence of ocelli; the prespiracular counter tympanal hood; and the one to three long, divergent spinules at the end of each antennal branch (Ferguson, 1978).

In Lymantria species, the females have wings that are longer and narrower than those of the male. The female bodies are stout and the antennae are bipectinate, with short branches approximately the thickness of the shaft, each bearing one terminal spinule. The male antennae are bipectinate with very long branches, each bearing one long terminal spinule and sometimes a second very short one. Sexual dimorphism in form and colour is often extreme. When at rest, the outline of the female resembles an isosceles triangle, whereas that of the male resembles an equilateral triangle.

Sexual dimorphism in colour is much reduced in L. monacha. The forewing coloration of both sexes varies from characteristic chalk-white, decorated with numerous dark transverse wavy lines and patches, to almost black. The hind wings are generally grey-brown with minute dark and/or light patches at their edge. The female has a wingspan of 45 to 55 mm, whereas the male has a wingspan of 35 to 45 mm. Lighter coloured females have abdomens with patches of pink or red and black bands, which correspond to the intersegments. Darker coloured females have abdomens that are all dark. The darker forms are common in Europe but totally absent in Oriental populations. The female has an extremely long ovipositor adapted for its specialised egg-laying habit.


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L. monacha is of Eurasian origin. See the Biology and Ecology/Environmental Requirements section for the limits of distribution. The most frequent outbreaks appear to occur in the Poland/Germany region of Europe (Lipa and Glowacka, 1995). The earliest reported outbreaks occurred in Poland in 1783-1784, 1794-1798, 1892-1898 and Western Russia (presently Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania) in 1827-1829 (Wellenstein, 1942a; Sliwa, 1987). The history of outbreaks throughout Eurasia is summarized by Wellenstein (1942a), Marushina (1978), Bejer (1988), Schönherr (1989), and Lipa and Glowacka (1995).

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Last updated: 12 May 2022
Continent/Country/Region Distribution Last Reported Origin First Reported Invasive Reference Notes


-GuizhouPresentNativeInvasiveOriginal citation: Chao (1978)
-SichuanPresentNativeInvasiveOriginal citation: Sun (1989)
-XinjiangPresentNativeInvasiveOriginal citation: Chao (1978)
-KyushuPresentNativeInvasiveOriginal citation: Inoue (1957)
-Ryukyu IslandsAbsent, Formerly presentOriginal citation: Kishida (1987)
-ShikokuPresentNativeInvasiveOriginal citation: Inoue (1957)
KazakhstanPresentNativeInvasiveOriginal citation: Gninenko, 1993
North KoreaPresentNativeInvasive
South KoreaPresentNativeInvasive
TaiwanAbsent, Formerly presentOriginal citation: Kishida (1987)


Bosnia and HerzegovinaPresent
CzechiaPresent, WidespreadNativeInvasive
EstoniaPresentNativeInvasiveOriginal citation: Marushina (1978)
FinlandPresent, LocalizedNative
ItalyPresent, LocalizedNativeInvasive
LatviaPresentNativeInvasiveOriginal citation: Marushina (1978)
LithuaniaPresentNativeInvasiveOriginal citation: Marushina (1978)
North MacedoniaPresentNativeInvasiveOriginal citation: Dzutevski and Cakar (1955)
-Central RussiaPresent, WidespreadNativeInvasiveOriginal citation: Marushina (1978)
-Eastern SiberiaPresent, WidespreadNativeInvasiveOriginal citation: Marushina (1978)
-Russia (Europe)PresentNative
-Russian Far EastPresentNativeInvasive
-Southern RussiaPresent, WidespreadNativeInvasiveOriginal citation: Marushina (1978)
-Western SiberiaPresent, WidespreadNativeInvasiveOriginal citation: Marushina (1978)
Serbia and MontenegroPresent
-Balearic IslandsPresentNativeInvasiveOriginal citation: Gomez de Aizpurua, 1992
UkrainePresentNativeInvasiveOriginal citation: Marushina (1978)
United KingdomPresentInvasive

North America

United StatesAbsent, Formerly presentOriginal citation: Holland (1903)
-New YorkAbsent, Formerly presentOriginal citation: Holland (1903)

History of Introduction and Spread

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The only species of Lymantria known to be established in the western hemisphere is Lymantria dispar. However, Holland (1903:309, pl. 38, figs. 14, 15) reported that he had been told that L. monacha was established in the suburbs of Brooklyn, New York, and even figured it in 'The Moth Book'. There are no reports of its presence since 1903, so either the original report was incorrect, or it did not persist.

Habitat List

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Terrestrial ManagedCultivated / agricultural land Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial ManagedProtected agriculture (e.g. glasshouse production) Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial ManagedManaged forests, plantations and orchards Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial ManagedManaged grasslands (grazing systems) Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial ManagedDisturbed areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial ManagedRail / roadsides Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial ManagedUrban / peri-urban areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial Natural / Semi-naturalNatural forests Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial Natural / Semi-naturalNatural grasslands Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial Natural / Semi-naturalRiverbanks Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial Natural / Semi-naturalWetlands Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
LittoralCoastal areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)

Hosts/Species Affected

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The two species that L. monacha prefers and most often damages in Europe are Picea abies (Norway spruce) and Pinus sylvestris (Scots pine) (Lipa and Glowacka, 1995). Sliwa (1987) provides an extensive list of the intensity of natural feeding of L. monacha larvae on trees and shrubs in Poland during the last major outbreak there between 1978 and 1984. In Russia, L. monacha prefers P. abies forests in the western part of European Russia and P. sylvestris from there, east through the Urals up to the Yenisey river in Central Siberia. In the upper Amur region, outbreaks from 1965 to 1967 occurred in Larix cajanderi forests (Nakonechnyy, 1973), and in the Primoriye region outbreaks occurred from 1978 to 1983 in mixed broad-leaf coniferous forests where it defoliated Pinus koraiensis, Abies nephrolepis and Picea ajanensis [Picea jezoensis] (Turova and Yurchenko, 1986). On Sakhalin Island, Russia, P. ajanensis was the primary host and stands of Betula ermanii and L. cajanderi were partially defoliated during an outbreak from 1952 to 1955 (Turova and Yurchenko, 1986).

Laboratory investigations of nun moth preferences and utilization of Eurasian host plants provide limited and contradictory information (Bejer, 1988). For example, laboratory studies rank the preferred species, spruce, pine and larch, as intermediate to low in food value (Bejer, 1988). Most of the host plant work carried out on L. monacha has concentrated on the relationships between bud burst on the main hosts, P. abies and P. sylvestris, and the hatching of L. monacha larvae. This work has shown that host phenology is as important as host preference in determining the survival and successful development of L. monacha larvae. For example, when the larvae hatch before foliage bud burst, the presence of male flowers or buds on Pinus sp. is critical to larval survival and growth (Bejer, 1988). Keena (2003) tested 26 North American tree species and Withers and Keena (2001) tested Pinus radiata to project the potential host range of this insect if accidentally introduced into North America or New Zealand. The following tree species were found to be suitable hosts for L. monacha: Abies concolor, Picea glauca, Picea pungens, Pinus radiata, Tsuga canadensis, Betula populifolia, Prunus serotina, Quercus lobata, and Quercus velutina.

Host Plants and Other Plants Affected

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Plant nameFamilyContextReferences
Abies alba (silver fir)PinaceaeOther
Abies concolor (Rocky Mountain white fir)PinaceaeUnknown
Abies fabri (Faber fir)PinaceaeOther
Abies firma (momi fir)PinaceaeMain
Abies nephrolepis (Khingan fir)PinaceaeOther
Acer platanoides (Norway maple)AceraceaeOther
Betula ermanii (Erman's birch)BetulaceaeMain
Betula pendula (common silver birch)BetulaceaeMain
Betula populifolia (gray birch)BetulaceaeUnknown
Carpinus betulus (hornbeam)BetulaceaeOther
Carpinus cordata (heart-leaved hornbeam)BetulaceaeOther
Corylus avellana (hazel)BetulaceaeOther
Corylus heterophylla (siberian hazel)BetulaceaeOther
Evonymus europeusOther
Fagus longipetiolataFagaceaeOther
Fagus sylvatica (common beech)FagaceaeMain
Frangula alnus (alder buckthorn)RhamnaceaeOther
Fraxinus excelsior (ash)OleaceaeOther
Juniperus chinensis (Chinese juniper)CupressaceaeOther
Juniperus communis (common juniper)CupressaceaeOther
Keteleeria fortunei (fortune's keteleeria)PinaceaeOther
Larix decidua (common larch)PinaceaeMain
Larix gmelinii (Dahurian larch)PinaceaeMain
Larix kaempferi (Japanese larch)PinaceaeMain
Malus domestica (apple)RosaceaeOther
Picea abies (common spruce)PinaceaeMain
Picea asperata (dragon spruce)PinaceaeOther
Picea glauca (white spruce)PinaceaeUnknown
Picea jezoensis (Yeddo spruce)PinaceaeMain
Picea pungens (blue spruce)PinaceaeOther
Picea sitchensis (Sitka spruce)PinaceaeMain
Pinus armandii (armand's pine)PinaceaeOther
Pinus banksiana (jack pine)PinaceaeOther
Pinus contorta (lodgepole pine)PinaceaeMain
Pinus densiflora (Japanese umbrella pine)PinaceaeOther
Pinus koraiensis (fruit pine)PinaceaeMain
Pinus nigra (black pine)PinaceaeOther
Pinus strobus (eastern white pine)PinaceaeOther
Pinus sylvestris (Scots pine)PinaceaeMain
Pinus yunnanensis (Yunnan pine)PinaceaeOther
Populus nigra (black poplar)SalicaceaeOther
Populus tremula var. davidianaSalicaceaeOther
Prunus armeniaca (apricot)RosaceaeOther
Prunus serotina (black cherry)RosaceaeUnknown
Pseudotsuga menziesii (Douglas-fir)PinaceaeOther
Pseudotsuga menziesii var. glaucaUnknown
Pseudotsuga sinensis (chinese douglas fir)PinaceaeOther
Pyrus communis (European pear)RosaceaeOther
Quercus aliena (oriental white oak)FagaceaeOther
Quercus glandulifera (Glandbearing oak)FagaceaeOther
Quercus lobata (California white oak)FagaceaeUnknown
Quercus petraea (durmast oak)FagaceaeMain
Quercus robur (common oak)FagaceaeMain
Quercus rubra (northern red oak)FagaceaeOther
Quercus velutina (black oak)FagaceaeUnknown
Rubus idaeus (raspberry)RosaceaeOther
Salix babylonica (weeping willow)SalicaceaeOther
Sorbus alnifolia (hornbeam-ash)RosaceaeOther
Sorbus aucuparia (mountain ash)RosaceaeOther
Tilia cordata (small-leaf lime)TiliaceaeOther
Tilia platyphyllos (large-leaved lime)TiliaceaeOther
Tilia tuanTiliaceaeOther
Tsuga canadensis (eastern hemlock)PinaceaeUnknown
Tsuga chinensis (Chinese hemlock)PinaceaeOther
Ulmus laevis (Russian white elm)UlmaceaeOther
Ulmus macrocarpaUlmaceaeOther
Ulmus pumila (dwarf elm)UlmaceaeOther
Vaccinium myrtillus (blueberry)EricaceaeOther

Growth Stages

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Flowering stage, Fruiting stage, Vegetative growing stage


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In coniferous trees, newly hatched L. monacha larvae usually move to the crowns and start feeding on young, soft needles. When young, soft needles are absent, they may feed on buds and male cones until leaf bud break. Feeding on male cones in Pinus species is often essential to larval survival because they usually hatch before leaf bud break. When the larvae feed on open male cones of pine they often cover themselves in the pollen so they appear yellow and black. While feeding on Pinus, Abies, Picea and Larix needles the larvae are very destructive; first they cut the upper half off then eat the remaining part. This results in a build-up of both frass and damaged needles at the base of coniferous trees where they are feeding. In deciduous trees they initially perforate the young leaves and later consume all leaf tissues except the non-edible veins. Approximately 600 to 1000 larvae are sufficient to completely defoliate a Pinus sylvestris tree and in outbreaks there may be up to 20,000 larvae per tree (Lipa and Glowacka, 1995).

List of Symptoms/Signs

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SignLife StagesType
Growing point / external feeding
Inflorescence / external feeding
Inflorescence / webbing
Leaves / external feeding
Leaves / webbing
Stems / external feeding
Stems / webbing

Biology and Ecology

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The haploid karyotype of L. monacha is 31 chromosomes (Seiler and Haniel, 1921). Robinson (1971) provides a review of all the early genetics work on L. monacha, including the inheritance of melanism variation in both the larvae and adults. Recent investigations to characterize L. monacha DNA (Pfeifer et al., 1995; Bogdanowicz et al., 2000) and that of related species provide means of distinguishing L. monacha from closely related species.

Reproductive Biology

Adult L. monacha fly from mid-July to the beginning of September (the exact time depends on the climate of the region). The males are nocturnally active and the females release a pheromone to attract the males. The adults are most active around midnight and the males are much more active than the females. Although the females fly, they usually sit on stems to await the male. Once mated, the females lay from 70 to 300 eggs in clusters of approximately 40 eggs, in bark crevices or under lichens on the bark. After depositing most of her eggs, the female may fly more actively. The L. monacha embryo completes development 2 to 6 weeks after the egg is laid (depending on temperature) and then enters diapause for about 10 weeks. Hatching usually occurs in the beginning of May. First- and second-instars are capable of wind-dispersal over considerable distances. The larvae have five to seven instars and pupation takes place in July. The males typically emerge a few days before the females. This brief summary was prepared using summaries by Bejer (1988), Grijpma (1989), and Lipa and Glowacka (1995).

Environmental Requirements

L. monacha is a typical transpalearctic species with a wide distribution from Japan, Korea, China, throughout Russia (southern parts of Russia Far East, Eastern and Western Siberia, Southern Urals, European part; see map in Baranchikov, 1997), and most European countries. It occurs within a band between northern latitudes 43°N and 57°N (Carter, 1984) including southern England, Denmark, Sweden and Finland in the north, and Spain, Portugal and Italy at elevations of 1000 to 2000 m in the south (Lipa and Glowacka, 1995). The zone in which periodic outbreaks occur is generally bounded by the July isotherm of 16°C and September isotherm of 10.5°C (Bejer, 1988). The outbreak areas are semiarid and several studies have indicated that more frequent outbreaks occur in drought-sensitive sites where the hosts are probably stressed (Bejer, 1988; Lipa and Glowacka, 1995).

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Agria housei Parasite Arthropods|Larvae; Arthropods|Pupae
Agria monachae Parasite
Bacillus thuringiensis Pathogen Arthropods|Larvae
Bacillus thuringiensis galleriae Pathogen Arthropods|Larvae
Bacillus thuringiensis kurstaki Pathogen Arthropods|Larvae
Bacillus thuringiensis subsp. dendrolimus Pathogen Arthropods|Larvae
Bacillus thuringiensis thuringiensis Pathogen Arthropods|Larvae
Baculovirus efficiens Pathogen
Beauveria bassiana Pathogen
Bessa parallela Parasite Arthropods|Larvae
Blepharipa pratensis Parasite Arthropods|Larvae
Blepharipa schineri Parasite Arthropods|Larvae
Calosoma sycophanta Predator Arthropods|Larvae; Arthropods|Pupae
Carcelia puberula Parasite Arthropods|Larvae
Compsilura concinnata Parasite Arthropods|Larvae; Arthropods|Pupae
Cotesia melanoscela Parasite Arthropods|Larvae
Cytoplasmic polyhedrosis virus (CPV) Pathogen Arthropods|Larvae
cytoplasmic polyhedrosis viruses Pathogen Arthropods|Larvae
Drino inconspicua Parasite Arthropods|Larvae
Eurytoma verticillata Parasite Arthropods|Larvae; Arthropods|Pupae
Exorista fasciata Parasite Arthropods|Larvae
Exorista larvarum Parasite Arthropods|Larvae
Formica cinerea Predator
Formica polyctena Predator
Lymantrichneumon disparis Parasite Arthropods|Pupae
Nucleopolyhedrosis virus Pathogen Arthropods|Larvae
Pales pavida Parasite Arthropods|Larvae
Parasetigena agilis Parasite Arthropods|Larvae
Parasetigena silvestris Parasite Arthropods|Larvae
Pimpla contemplator Parasite Arthropods|Pupae
Pimpla hypochondriaca Parasite Arthropods|Pupae
Zenillia libatrix Parasite Arthropods|Larvae

Notes on Natural Enemies

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The parasitoids of L. monacha in Europe have been catalogued by Thompson (1944), and Herting and Simmonds (1976) and studied in detail by Fahringer (1941) and Schedul (1949) in Austria, by Niklas (1942) in Germany, by Komarek (1937) and Kolubajiv (1962) in the Czech Republic, and by Romanyk and Ruperez (1960) in Spain. The tachinid Parasetigena silvestris and the braconid Cotesia melanoscela, are considered to be the most important in Europe (Grijpma, 1989). Lipa and Glowacka (1995) provide a list of all the parasitoids and pathogens reported for L. monacha in Poland. Mills and Schoenberg (1985) provide a list of the more important parasitoids. Kolomiets (1990) reviewed numerous publications on predators and parasitoids of L. monacha in Russia; Parasetigena agilis and Blepharipa schineri were shown to be the most effective parasites in the Russian Far East. No egg parasites were found in Russia. Chao (1978) provides a list of L. monacha parasitoids in China.

Several species of birds, arthropods and small mammals are reported to prey on the eggs, larvae, pupae and adults of L. monacha (Steinfatt, 1942). Birds are considered to be the main predators of both eggs and larvae, but may not have much influence during outbreaks (von Wellenstein and Schwenke, 1978).

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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Natural Dispersal

Newly hatched L. monacha larvae often climb to the top of trees and can become wind blown, aided by the silk threads they produce and the specialised hairs they possess (see Morphology section for description). The larvae may also crawl to new hosts when their immediate food supply has been exhausted. Both the male and female moths fly, although females usually fly less until they have laid most of their eggs, thus contributing to the expansion of outbreaks over sequential years (Bejer, 1988).

Movement in Trade

The adults are readily attracted to lights (Wallner et al., 1995) and have been observed in the vicinity of ports where they could lay eggs in or on structures that will be transported. Whole bolts of preferred host with intact bark could also contain hidden eggs. These eggs would not be readily spotted because the females lay their eggs under bark scales and in cracks. In outbreak areas, other stages could potentially become associated with items that will be moved in trade or vehicles.

Plant Trade

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Plant parts liable to carry the pest in trade/transportPest stagesBorne internallyBorne externallyVisibility of pest or symptoms
Bark arthropods/eggs Yes Yes Pest or symptoms usually visible to the naked eye
Flowers/Inflorescences/Cones/Calyx arthropods/larvae Yes Pest or symptoms usually visible to the naked eye
Leaves arthropods/larvae Yes Pest or symptoms usually visible to the naked eye
Stems (above ground)/Shoots/Trunks/Branches arthropods/adults; arthropods/eggs; arthropods/larvae; arthropods/pupae Yes Pest or symptoms usually visible to the naked eye

Impact Summary

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Animal/plant collections Negative
Animal/plant collections Negative
Animal/plant products None
Animal/plant products None
Biodiversity (generally) Negative
Biodiversity (generally) Negative
Crop production None
Crop production None
Environment (generally) Negative
Environment (generally) Negative
Fisheries / aquaculture None
Fisheries / aquaculture None
Forestry production Negative
Forestry production Negative
Human health Negative
Human health Negative
Livestock production None
Livestock production None
Native fauna Negative
Native fauna Negative
Native flora Negative
Native flora Negative
Rare/protected species None
Rare/protected species None
Tourism Negative
Tourism None
Trade/international relations Negative
Trade/international relations Negative
Transport/travel None
Transport/travel None


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The first recorded outbreak of L. monacha (1853-1863) occurred in European Russia and resulted in the damage or destruction of approximately 403,000 km² of forest (Bejer, 1988). Since then there have been periodic outbreaks across Europe (Wellenstein, 1942a; Bejer, 1988; Schöenherr, 1989; Lipa and Glowacka, 1995). During the longest outbreak (1978-1984), over 2 million ha of coniferous forests (one-quarter of Poland's forests) were infested and partly defoliated (Schönherr, 1985). In addition, L. monacha defoliation has been shown to reduce annual tree growth in pines in Poland (Beker, 1996) and spruce in the Czech Republic (Vins and Svestka, 1973). The cost of eradication or control of L. monacha, based on host plant availability and climate, would be enormous should it become established in North America (Wallner, 1996).

Environmental Impact

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L. monacha damage and resulting tree loss has the potential to alter the species composition of forests where outbreaks occur. The loss of coniferous species would be more severe than that of deciduous species because they tolerate less defoliation. Any associated wildlife that depends on the affected tree species for food or nesting would be adversely affected. Nutrient and water cycling in the ecosystem may also be affected. During a L. monacha outbreak in Poland, the massive quantities of frass and needle fall increased the nitrogen and phosphorus in the pine litter two to three times the normal level and also increased the potassium and manganese significantly (Dziadowiec and Plichta, 1985).

Social Impact

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Coniferous trees killed by L. monacha defoliation or subsequent attack by other organisms may not be useable for lumber because of deterioration of the wood before it can be harvested. This could affect the timber industry and those they employ. Tree loss, especially in populated areas, can also affect tourism and increase safety concerns in areas where dead limbs or trees could fall and injure people or damage property. The scales and hairs of L. monacha are allergens so outbreaks can create a human health risk for some people (Delgado Quiroz, 1978).


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Pfeifer et al. (1995) provides a molecular method for distinguishing L. monacha from closely related species.

Detection and Inspection

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Conventional methods for monitoring L. monacha populations include counts of eggs during the winter, larvae counts, larval frass estimates, pupae or pupal exuvia counts, counts of adults resting on tree trunks and assessments of defoliation (Wellenstein, 1978; Schwerdtfeger, 1981; Bejer, 1988). However, none of these labour-intensive methods alone is able to accurately detect building populations (Bejer, 1988; Skatulla, 1989). Pheromone-based monitoring holds the most promise for detecting population trends and does correlate well with larval frass counts (Moorewood et al., 2000), but not some of the other conventional methods. Studies to determine the effective range of pheromone traps (Ferenczy and Holzchuh, 1976; Skuhravy, 1987), the numbers of trapped males that warrant additional monitoring (Bogenschütz, 1982; Jensen, 1983; Schmutzenhofer, 1986; Skatulla, 1989), the specific components of the pheromone (Gries et al., 1996), and the possible differences in pheromone blends for populations from different geographic areas (Gries et al., 2001) are examples of other pheromone research that has been carried out on L. monacha.

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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Newly hatched larvae of both L. monacha and Lymantria dispar are very similar. The L. monacha first-instar larvae can be distinguished from the L. dispar first-instar larvae by the presence of paired black pinaculi on the dorsal surface of the body. Each pair of pinaculi is located in front of and between the pair of dorsal verrucae on each segment. Under a scanning electron microscope, additional differences become evident. The L. dispar larva has a single plumose seta with virtually no pinaculum located in the same position as the L. monacha 'air hair' with a large pinaculum. Keena et al. (1998) provide a complete description of how to distinguish all stages of L. monacha from L. dispar.

L. monacha owes its common name (nun moth) to its similarity to another moth, the monk (Panthea coenobita), which also has a black and white monk-cloak colouring (Bejer, 1988). P. coenobita (Noctuidae) differs from L. monacha (Lymantriidae) in that it has ocelli and tufts of scales on the dorsum of the thorax. They also belong to different Lepidoptera families.

Lymantria minomonis okinawaensis found on Okinawa and Lymantria minomonis sugii in Taiwan have previously been misidentified as L. monacha because they look like the lighter form (Kishida, 1987).

In the Russian Far East, adult male L. monacha held with forceps with their wings positioned above the body can produce a clear sound similar to one of Lymantria mathura (Baranchikov et al., 2004). This has never been reported from Siberian and European populations of L. monacha.

Prevention and Control

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Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.

Cultural Control

The tendency of forestry to move toward large areas of monoculture and even-aged stands tends to increase the incidence of L. monacha outbreaks. Another factor is the planting of trees in areas not well suited to the tree species, thus stressing the trees and increasing their susceptibility to pest attack. To reduce the risk of large-scale outbreaks, Bejer (1988) suggests that spruce forests in the outbreak zone or on susceptible sites should be well dispersed, removed, or put on a shorter rotation. Establishing mixed stands of conifers or adding deciduous trees might also reduce the risks of outbreak (Bejer, 1988). Neither of these options would be easy to implement for economic reasons.

Biological Control

At present, only Bacillus thuringiensis products are available for operational use against L. monacha. There is some variation in the control results obtained for different formulations (Glowacka, 1989; Glowacka, 1995). B. thuringiensis has been widely used with good success in Germany (Altenkirch et al., 1986; Langenbruch, 1993), Russia (Bakhvalov et al., 1984; Marchenko, 1995), Belarus (Krushev and Marchenko, 1981) and the Czech Republic (Svestka, 1995).

For more than a century it has been known that natural epizootics of the nuclear polyhedrosis virus are the main factor that causes the collapse of L. monacha outbreaks (Grijpma, 1989). Several attempts to produce it have been made but no large-scale production for operational use has yet resulted.

Mating disruption using micro encapsulated pheromones sprayed on trees has been attempted and shown to reduce population numbers even in the following year (Vrkoch et al., 1981; Jensen, 1983).

Chemical Control

Chemical controls have been used against L. monacha since 1892, when the world's first synthetic insecticide was applied (Ferguson, 1992). The large-scale use of a number of chlorinated hydrocarbons followed until they were banned. Synthetic pyrethroids and growth inhibitors are still in use against L. monacha. The growth inhibitors are slow to act so can only be used when the populations are low enough or caught early enough so that the growing tips of the conifers are not completely destroyed. Synthetic pyrethroids have negative effects on non-target organisms so they cannot be used in environmentally sensitive areas, but they are fast-acting and cheap, so they are still used.

Field Monitoring/Economic Threshold Levels

Bogenschütz (1982) proposed a three-stage monitoring system for determining when control treatments are needed: use pheromone warning traps to survey endemic populations; a more intense survey when the numbers of males trapped reaches a critical threshold; and forecasting larval damage to determine if treatments are needed. Schmutzenhofer (1986) suggested that 2000 to 3000 males per trap over the entire flight season is the threshold warning of an outbreak in the next year. Skatulla (1989) demonstrated a correlation between pheromone moth catches and population density and proposed a critical threshold value of 60 to 70 males per trap per night. Markov (1999) gave population density thresholds for control actions against L. monacha in Russia.

IPM Programmes

Jensen (1991) proposed a tentative integrated pest management programme for L. monacha. More work on thresholds for intervention using different methods still needs to be done to make this possible.


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Vins B, Svestka M, 1973. Influence of defoliation by nun moth on the increment of Norway spruce stands. Prace VULHM, 44:5-38

von Wellenstein G, Schwenke W, 1978. Lymantria Hbn. In: Schwenke W, ed. Die ForstschSdlinge Europas. Schmetterlinge. 3. Band. Hamburg und Berlin, Germany: Paul Parey, 334-368.

Vrkoch L, Kalvoda L, Skugravy V, Khokhmut R, Zhdyarek Ya, 1981. The disorientation of males with the pheromones of the grey larch moth (Zeiraphera diniana Gn.) and the nun moth (Lymantria monacha L.) in the conditions of Czechoslovakia. Khemoretseptsiya Nasekomykh, No. 6:130-133

Walker F, 1855. List of the specimens of Lepidopterous insects in the collection of the British Museum, 4:773-976.

Wallner WE, 1996. Exotic forest defoliators: some species of concern. In: Fosbroke SLC, Gotttschalk KW, eds. Proceedings of USDA interagency gypsy moth research forum 1996, January 16-19, Annapolis, MD. USDA Forest Service, Northeastern Forest Experiment Station General Technical Report NE-230. Radnor, PA, 76-79.

Wallner WE, Humble LM, Levin RE, Baranchikov YN, Cardé RT, 1995. Response of adult lymantriid moths to illumination devices in the Russian Far East. Journal of Economic Entomology, 88(2):337-342

Waterhouse DF, 1993. The Major Arthropod Pests and Weeds of Agriculture in Southeast Asia. ACIAR Monograph No. 21. Canberra, Australia: Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, 141 pp.

Wellenstein G ed, 1942. [The nun moth in East Prussia (1933-1937).] Monographien zur angewandten Entomologie, 151-682.

Wellenstein G, 1942. [Mass outbreaks of nun moth]. In: Wellenstein G, ed. Die Nonne in Ostpreussen. Monographien zur angewandten Entomologie, 15:207-278.

Wellenstein G, 1978. Lymantria monacha L., Nonnenspinner, Nonne. In: Schwenke W, ed. Die Forstschädlinge Europas. Hamburg, Germany: Verlag Paul Parey.

Withers TM, Keena MA, 2001. Lymantria monacha (nun moth) and L. dispar (gypsy moth) survival and development on improved Pinus radiata. New Zealand Journal of Forestry Science, 31(1):66-77; 19 ref.

Zhao ZL, 1982. Lymantriidae. In: Iconographia heterocerorum sinicorum II Notodontidae, Lymantriidae, Arctiidae, Hypsidae, Amatidae. Beijing, China: Science Press, 135-235.

Distribution References

Adlung K G, 1964. Field tests on the attraction of male nun moths (Lymantria monacha L.) and gypsy moths (Lymantria dispar L.) to Gyplure, a synthetic sex attractant. Zeitschrift fur Angewandte Entomologie. 54 (3), 304-9.

Bejer B, 1986. Outbreaks of nun moth (Lymantria monacha L.) in Denmark with remarks on their control. Anzeiger für Schädlingskunde, Pflanzenschutz, Umweltschutz. 59 (5), 86-89. DOI:10.1007/BF01903455

CABI, Undated. Compendium record. Wallingford, UK: CABI

CABI, Undated a. CABI Compendium: Status as determined by CABI editor. Wallingford, UK: CABI

Cescatti A, Battisti A, 1992. Distribution and ecology of Lymantria monacha L. and Cephalcia spp. in non-outbreak areas of Trentino (N-Italy). Journal of Pest Science. 65 (5), 92 - 99. DOI:10.1007/BF01905053

EPPO, 2014. EPPO Global database (available online). Paris, France: EPPO.

EPPO, 2022. EPPO Global database. In: EPPO Global database, Paris, France: EPPO. 1 pp.

Gries G, Schaefer P W, Gries R, Liška J, Gotoh T, 2001. Reproductive character displacement in Lymantria monacha from Northern Japan? Journal of Chemical Ecology. 27 (6), 1163-1176. DOI:10.1023/A:1010316029165

Grijpma P, Belde J J M, van der Werf D C, 1987. Artifical diets and rearing of the nun moth, Lymantria monacha. Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata. 45 (3), 219-225. DOI:10.1111/j.1570-7458.1987.tb01087.x

Gruber F, Fuester R W, Drea J J Jr, 1978. Distribution of Lymantria dispar (L.) and L. monacha (L.) in France (Lepidoptera, Lymantriidae). (Repartition de Lymantria dispar (L.) et L. monacha (L.) en France (Lepidoptera, Lymantriidae).). Annales de la Societe Entomologique de France. 14 (4), 599-602.

Johansson B G, Anderbrant O, Sierpinski A, 2002. Multispecies trapping of six pests of Scots pine in Sweden and Poland. Journal of Applied Entomology. 126 (5), 212-216. DOI:10.1046/j.1439-0418.2002.00648.x

Pogue M G, Schaefer P W, 2007. A review of selected species of Lymantria Hübner [1819] including three new species (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae: Lymantriinae) from subtropical and temperate regions of Asia, some potentially invasive to North America (FHTET-2006-07)., USA: U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Forest Health Technology Enterprise Team. 1-221.

Rausell C, Decker N de, García-Robles I, Escriche B, Kerkhove E van, Real M D, Martínez-Ramírez A C, 2000. Effect of Bacillus thuringiensis toxins on the midgut of the nun moth Lymantria monacha. Journal of Invertebrate Pathology. 75 (4), 288-291. DOI:10.1006/jipa.2000.4926

Waterhouse D F, 1993. The major arthropod pests and weeds of agriculture in Southeast Asia. Canberra, Australia: ACIAR. v + 141 pp.

Wellenstein G, 1973. The use of insect viruses for the protection of forests. Bulletin, Organisation Europeenne et Mediterraneenne pour la Protection des Plantes. 43-52.

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